# Powers Of Two In The Josephus Problem

Pradeep Mutalik of The New York Times recently blogged about a puzzle that is an instance of the Josephus Problem. The problem, restated simply, is this: there are n people standing in a circle, of which you are one. Someone outside the circle goes around clockwise and repeatedly eliminates every other person in the circle, until one person — the winner — remains. Where should you stand so you become the winner?

Here’s an example with 13 participants:

Alternating Elimination with 13 people, order of elimination shown in red (winner is person 11)

As Pradeep and his readers point out, there’s no need to work through the elimination process — a simple formula will give the answer. This formula, you won’t be surprised to hear, has connections to the powers of two and binary numbers. I will discuss my favorite solution, one based on the powers of two.

# Google Image Matches the Imagery of Exploring Binary

The image on Google’s home page today, which commemorates the 40th anniversary of the moon landing, matches the imagery of this site: